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Thrice-Signed Kimon Dekadrachm – Pedigreed to 1956


SICILY, Syracuse. Dionysios I. 405-367 BC. AR Dekadrachm (35mm, 43.34 g, 7h). Obverse and reverse dies signed by Kimon. Struck circa 405-400 BC. Charioteer, holding kentron in extended right hand and reins in left, driving fast quadriga left; above, Nike flying right, crowning charioteer with laurel wreath held in her extended hands; below heavy exergual line inscribed KIMΩN (only traces visible, as usual), a shield, greaves, cuirass, and Attic helmet, all connected by a horizontal spear; [AΘΛA below] / Head of Arethousa left, wearing single-pendant earring and necklace, hair restrained in an ampyx, inscribed K, and open-weave sakkos; ΣΥΡAΚΟΣΙΩ behind hair, four swimming dolphins around, the bottom dolphin inscribed KIMΩN. Jongkees 3 (dies A/γ); Scavino 3; Regling, Dekadrachmon 3; HGC 2, 1298; SNG Lockett 988; Basel 479; BMC 202–3; Boston MFA 432 = Warren 355; Dewing 869 = Bement 511; Gillet 645; Gulbenkian 303; Hunt III 27 = Gillet 646; Hunterian 64; Jameson 819; Kraay & Hirmer 118; de Luynes 1243; McClean 2734; Rizzo pl. L, 3; Pozzi 610; Ward 291; Weber 1612 (all from the same dies). Beautiful old collection tone, only a little of the usual die rust on obverse. Near EF. A masterpiece of the die engraver’s art.

Ex Dr. Orth Collection (Peus 380, 3 November 2004), lot 250; Hess-Leu 28 (5 May 1965), lot 90; Hess-Leu [3] (27 March 1956), lot 201.

Nothing is known about the personal life of the Syracusan master engraver Kimon, other than the approximate years he was active, circa 415-390 BC. The legacy of his art, however, is extensive and timeless. He worked in all the metals used for coinage – gold, silver and bronze – and left his distinctive signature (usually his full name KIMΩN or KI) on dies for denominations large and small. His unique style, the essence of classical beauty, and his attention to detail are apparent on all of his designs, whether a huge silver dekadrachm or a humble bronze fraction. All are masterpieces, but his most famous designs are his facing-head silver tetradrachm and the several dies he produced for the showcase coins of Syracuse, the immense silver dekadrachms struck circa 405-390 BC. The reverse (actually the “heads” side) of Kimon's dekadrachm design features a highly individualized portrait of Arethousa, nymph of the spring of Ortygia, clearly modeled on a contemporary Greco-Sicilian woman. The head displays little of the idealization typical of his contemporary master engraver, Euainetos, and the details vary considerably from die to die. Her hair is bound in an elaborate jeweled net and a wide hairband, or ampyx, on which is placed the engraver’s initial K; a full signature is located on the dolphin below her neck. Kimon produced only six signed Arethousa dies for the dekadrachm series; another seven dies are in his distinct style, but without signature.